Piano Concerto in E-flat, P229/Op.4
Cello Concerto in E-minor, P243
Nareh Arghamanyan (piano)
Aurélien Pascal (cello)
Recorded 16-19 May 2016 at Kupferhaus Planegg, Germany
Reviewed by: Antony Hodgson
Reviewed: February 2018
CD No: SONY CLASSICAL
Duration: 59 minutes
Franz Danzi (1763-1826) wrote music in various genres; only a limited amount of it is available although recording companies have paid some attention to his Wind Quintets. The chronology of his works is not entirely clear but we know that Danzi’s bold E-flat Piano Concerto, catalogued variously, was composed in 1799 for the wedding of his niece. It is not, as the booklet note suggests, his only Piano Concerto since there is a manuscript of one in D at Munster Schwarzen Library and another in that key is to be found in Berlin.
The E-flat Concerto is most attractive; its construction shows similarities to Mozart’s Concertos. Danzi was seven years Mozart’s junior and seven years Beethoven’s senior but his music, though clearly of that period, does not melodically resemble either. Here are straightforward well-fashioned piano themes supported with just a hint of the challenging orchestral responses that Weber could have written. Towards the close of the opening Allegro, a cadenza is heralded but, rather than a solo display, Danzi writes an elaboration of the main theme which the orchestra then accompanies. Cool simplicity is the essence of the central Andante moderato, gently expounded by Nareh Arghamanyan. Neither here nor in the Finale does she attempt to overstate the easygoing melodies. The Concerto ends in an atmosphere of naïve cheerfulness and Arghamanyan’s clear technique seems to benefit from the unusually wide stereophonic spread that recording engineer Gerhard Gruber affords her instrument.
The Cello Concerto is a more-serious matter, composed ten years later for a larger orchestra which includes trombones; it begins questioningly before a dramatic riposte is made, followed by a second theme that explores other keys adventurously. Only then does the cello enter, a calming influence for a while until it guides the accompaniment into more theatrical areas. Without abandoning its Classical roots the movement has the essence of a symphonic poem. Again Danzi’s cadenza is unusual, beginning with a bold announcement of the main theme (indeed boldness is a feature of Aurélian Pascal’s playing) but is soon joined by the ensemble in forceful style. The Larghetto is a reflective movement and Pascal is ideally sympathetic, particularly in quieter moments where Danzi’s inventiveness begins to compare with that of his more-famous contemporaries. Notwithstanding the minor key, the Finale is full of bouncing jollity and the composer toys with changes of colour while Pascal bounces brightly and skilfully through cheerful tunes.
Between the two Concertos is an Overture – suitable as a starter to an opera or play but its origin is obscure. I am not convinced that its three movements were planned to go together – the first, in D, features bold trumpets and drums, the charming A-major Andantino features an oboe and the Finale moves to the key of C but brass and timpani are not used. It’s enjoyable though and the orchestra plays superbly.